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Northwest Tower: Concrete Walkway Protects, Confuses Pedestrians, Cyclists

By Alisa Hauser | June 30, 2014 1:08pm
 A concrete barrier that serves as a walkway has been constructed to keep pedestrians safe as work on the Northwest Tower boutique hotel project continues.
Northwest Tower Construction Project's Pedestrian Walkway in Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK —  A new concrete walkway in front of a 12-story tower being transformed into a boutique hotel is both protecting — and confusing — some passersby and cyclists at Wicker Park's Milwaukee and North avenues intersection.

"At first I thought it was just scaffolding, but then noticed that they have built 3-foot high concrete walls with metal posts coming out of them to support a roof," wrote one Everyblock member, who said the structure, "almost looks like it could be a protected bike lane or something."

Work on the temporary walkway, located at 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave. and stretching north for a few hundred feet, began on June 19 and was completed Friday, said Evan Meister, a real estate analyst for Convexity Properties, the developers who are leading the project.

 A cyclist travels through a temporary concrete walkway at the northwest intersection of Milwaukee and North avenues on Sunday.
A cyclist travels through a temporary concrete walkway at the northwest intersection of Milwaukee and North avenues on Sunday.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

Meister said that the barrier, which was approved by the Chicago Department of Transportation, is temporary and will be removed at the completion of construction. 

"At this stage it is a little too early to tell when the barrier will be taken down, but of course our goal is to work as quickly as possible so that we can finish our project and return the intersection to normal operation," Meister said.

The construction barrier is intended to keep pedestrians safe as work on the exterior facade of Wicker Park's Northwest Tower, scheduled to reopen as a hotel in June 2015, continues.

The CTA No. 72 Milwaukee Ave bus stop, formerly in front of the tower, has been relocated about one-third of a block north of the tower, since the sidewalk dead ends in front of the bus stop and does not allow pedestrians to pass through unless they travel in the walkway.

On Sunday, Humboldt Park resident and cyclist Paul Tydings was en route to Wicker Park's historic park to "try and find some shade," he said.

"It scares me, it's really close to the cars," said Tydings of the barrier.

Tydings, 54, said he rides his bike on the sidewalk "99-percent of the time" but the fact the sidewalk is closed forced him to use the street.

Other cyclists said they are dismounting their bikes to get through the intersection safely or trying to find alternative routes to avoid the congested corner, where the addition of the six-foot-wide pedestrian walkway has further tightened space between cars and cyclists.

Sara Sutton, a 31-year-old Wicker Park resident who was walking to the CTA Damen Blue Line "L" station on Sunday, said, "I have no idea what [the barrier] is for but I assumed it's not a big deal and is temporary."

In an email to DNAinfo Chicago, Meister said, "The barricade and scaffolding is required for mast climbers to allow Central Building (the masonry restoration subcontractor) to complete our exterior restoration work on the North West Tower and Hollander Fireproof Warehouses. The barricade and scaffolding are also serving to provide an area for our elevator hoist and trash/dumpster collection throughout construction."

Pete Scales, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation, suggested that, "Bicyclists should treat [the barrier walkway] as they would a regular sidewalk and walk their bikes through the walkway."

Meister added that the walkway should be for pedestrian use only.

"I believe the signage above the barricade even indicates it is a pedestrian walkway," Meister said.

About 250 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs will be created as a result of the hotel project, the city announced last week.

The project has garnered resounding support from local residents, who have been eager to witness the iconic tower's next chapter after several years of inactivity and false starts.

"It is important to ownership that we are communicating clearly with neighbors as we understand that construction can be frustrating for some people," Meister said.

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